5 things Fashion Week can teach any business about capturing the customer

Yes, this week is fashion week.

Most people have no reason to notice it — after all, nearly none of us are fashion designers, retail buyers, or other ‘industry’ types — but somehow there’s no escaping it.

At its core, its merely a trade show. Vendors show up with their wares, buyers see if they like them. But the mythology makes it larger than life.

How different would your life/business be if your customers whipped themselves into a frenzy just because you were showing off your latest stuff?

Here, in no particular order, are the 5 things I’ve learned from FW this year.

1. Float audacious rumors – Weeks before the event, people and the press are buzzing with excitement over leaks, rumors and predictions. Why? The leaks are usually of powerful people or beautiful products. The rumors are about things that impact the lives of normal people (even in a somewhat indirect way), and the press is so closely aligned with the buyers or the producers that they may as well be colluding.

Chances are, you don’t spend time crafting your product into sex. Into colluding with the press (or even your competitors). Into crafting a drama that’s larger than life.

Then you wonder why no one cares about your product.

2. Deliver spectacular oversell – Fashion Week events are among the most mysterious I’ve ever seen. You can only go into a show with an invitation – and getting an invitation from someone you don’t know personally can be challenging. The rooms are dark and sensuous, the products are displayed to all the senses — with music, lights, aromas, celebrities all interacting like a symphony of rainbow sprinkles. The best part is — runway items nearly never make it to the shelf. Just like concept cars, they are an artistic view into what could be. They capture the imagination and attention of the customer in a way that the current, boring product never could.

Betsey Johnson threw a show that involved acrobatics, gigantic flowers, bold colors and more. Was your last product demo just you and your powerpoint? How long did you spend thinking about the experience of your product? How often do you dare to make your customer work to win you over?

3. Involve the press and the consumer – On its own, Fashion Week would be a cool event, but the propaganda makes it surreal. The major trade pub, WWD livecasts photos and tweets non-stop. Bloggers and magazines vie for VIP spots, party passes, interviews and peeks. Even consumer media is in a state of constant uproar.

Chances are, you haven’t orchestrated such a reaction to your business. Sure you’ve written a press release for your big huzzah. You might have even paid a PR person/agent/massivecompany to help you get the word out. But have you truly partnered with

4. Be a character – Have you ever seen Karl Lagerfeld or Diane Von Furstenberg talk about their product? They are spectacular. Every bit the embodiment of their brand, brilliant, devoted, and so intricately interesting that we simply must buy their product.

Think about the last time you spoke to a client. Were you focused on standing out or fitting in? On surprising and delighting or in meeting expectations?

Get into it.

5. Surf a trendwave – The things that most people talk about aren’t the esoteric details of the products on display — but rather the human connection, the aspiration, and the interesting connections drawn by skilled designers to our lives.

A ton of the chatter is about who’s in the ‘front row’. Often, the coveted front row is given not just to the customer, but to celebrities, artists, friends of the designer, socialites and VIPs. This is interesting! Who are these people? While the bees buzz about the gossip, the product looms large in the background.

Lots of the products also had tie ins to pop culture. There was some social and political commentary, but perhaps no cross-promotion as memorable as Helmut Lang’s claim that this collection was inspired by the TV show ‘Game of Thrones’. I’m sure that garnered them twice as many views than other people with similar quality product.


Get out there and get it done.